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Ask a Dungeon Master: What does a Charisma score of 40 mean?

Written by Darkwarren - Published on September 26, 2013

A PC in our campaign inherited from another PC who died an artifact that doubles the owner’s Charisma score. The previous ownner had Cha 8, so when it became 16, it was no big deal, and it was a very interesting experience for everyone to work on the enhancement of personality the character underwent and all the reactions of the rest of the band and close NPCs But the character who inherited the artifact after the passing of the previous owner had Cha 20 before, and now…(even though she is a Ranger, she likes feeling pretty and Charisma is always her highest score, compensating for her real-life awkwardness – I’m being mean, but I can: she’s my sister)

Well we are having a hard time imagining what would such high Charisma score mean? It’s beyond a god’s score. What should the general reaction to her character be?

Such a problem brings up several issues that I would like to discuss.

The first is: how do we understand Charisma? If Charisma is nothing but physical attractiveness then the reaction would most likely be a physical/sexual one. If Charisma is understood more as the force of a character’s personality, then there can be other reactions. Earlier editions of D&D allowed for a Comeliness score, which described the physical attractiveness of a character while Charisma was more the strength or force of personality. I prefer to think of Charisma as the latter. Can an ugly cleric still call upon their faith and keep vampires at bay? Sure. In fact, I’m fine with an ugly character possessing a high Charisma score.

The second is this: a magic item that doubles an ability score is an extremely powerful item – as you have now come to recognize. It throws the game balance way off. Most games stick to straight addition/subtraction because multiplication makes for a much more powerful stat progression. Drawing from the previous usage of the item, it might be easy enough to change it to a +8 modifier (which is still extremely powerful). This makes the character’s Charisma score a 28 instead of a 40. This still makes the character one of the most charismatic beings on all the known planes.

However you choose to understand and express Charisma in your game and whatever you choose to do with the item itself the character should set off some very powerful reactions. Here are some possibilities:

  • Crush: one or more NPC’s becomes infatuated with the character. This can be romantic or not, it’s your call. This can also lead to challenging roleplaying opportunities because perhaps a young child wishes to follow her hero to dangerous territory or a young suitor ruins a previous marriage arrangement to be with his new love. If roleplayed poorly this might lead to…
  • Hate: a character with such a high charisma score evokes strong feelings in many people. Some of these people feel angry at their own feelings towards the character. Perhaps an NPC feels rejected and wishes now to do harm to their previous crush.
  • Jealousy: such a character causes others to see themselves in stark contrast and perhaps feels ashamed. Some NPC’s therefore lash out in a jealous rage, always trying to undermine the character
  • Covetousness: such a powerful magic item is the envy of many – including the gods and other planar powers. Perhaps there are agents seeking to steal the item from the character.
  • Sensory overload: a charisma of 40 should cause extremely powerful reactions. Perhaps some are blinded, knocked unconscious, or fall mute in her presence. Others may become embarrassed and run away, others might flock to her.

As a ranger this might have other implications. How do animals react? How about fey? Such an item presents several challenges but opens up many possibilities. Good luck!

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Written by Darkwarren

Matt W., aka Darkwarren, has been roleplaying ever since his older brother introduced him to the red box set when he was 7 years old. Since then he has game-mastered SSDC’s Battleords of the Twenty-third Century, WEG’s Shadowrun and Star Wars, and of course Dungeons & Dragons in a variety of forms. At thirty-four years old he takes turns on both sides of the screen with the group that he helped found in 2000 when 3.0 hit the stands and has met every week fairly regularly ever since. Currently they have been running a variety of the Paizo Adventure Path scenarios, so that’s his wheelhouse. He was almost famous when two of his adventures were green-lighted for possible publication right before Paizo relinquished the rights to publish Dungeon magazine.

Matt also has years if experience in improvisational comedy, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is currently working and studying to attain a master’s degree in theology, to enhance his career as a religious studies teacher. Lastly, his greatest passion is his family, especially the three sons and dog that he shares with his wife in upstate New York.

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